Few people in this life actually have the courage and support to do what they want in this world. They have a dream, but, they don’t know how to implement it without facing the consequences of going against the grain. My family was a perfect example of that. From an early age, they had everything planned out for me since graduation. I was supposed to go into finance, as expected. My great-grandfather and grandfather were financial leaders, having been the founders of banking institutions, so I was to follow in their footsteps. I was supposed to date and marry a boy whom my grandmother chose for me. Everything in my future had been set up since childhood. College was forbidden. Nevermind that I had earned a scholarship to a prestigious design college far away; my family said I wasn’t going anywhere outside of the state. I was to make my debut in society and, according to them, live happily ever after.

I had other ideas. Disheartened at 19, I walked away from that life completely. I struggled for several years working in the tech industry, then eventually retail, and the fashion industry, working my way into a field that embraced my love of design, photography, and beauty. I soon found my niche in covering events from runway to red carpet, and embraced my true calling as a writer/reporter. That experience showed me a world that I had always dreamed of, but in truth never expected.

Now, all of this didn’t happen overnight. It took years of building friendships, trial and error, falling flat on my face, and then some. I had so many doubts, even doubts from ghosts of my past, telling me that I wasn’t good enough, and that I’d never be anything. At the time, I honestly thought I wasn’t worthy. I had no one who actually could relate to what I had been through, who even took the time to listen to my dreams, my goals, or my vision. I had spent years alone, sometimes building, sometimes losing it all, and I did, twice over. That’s right, I failed, and only then succeeded.

During that time, I forged a solid friendship with someone who had gone through the same battles, someone who lived to tell and rose again, pretty much in the same way that I did. While I can’t go into details, they were my strength when I was unable to believe. They not only taught me I could fly again, they showed me how, and they believed in me enough to teach me how to do so again on my own. I knew that they had my back no matter what, and I could trust-fall and it would be okay. They suggested venues that would spotlight my talent, and while it was up to me to shine, they always were waiting in the wings for me as my cheering squad, and I soon became theirs. To this day, they never really knew the extent of what I had lost, but I have gained so much more than what the past had given me. They helped me to find the person within, who I was meant to be. That is my takeaway from all this. I hope that I too became someone who could inspire them as much as they have inspired me. There are people who I will never forget, and I am grateful for their presence in my life, and in my world.

Today, I can stand proud and say, “I am, because of what you saw in me,” “I am, because you helped me to see that too.” Your strength and spirit guided me to where I never thought I could go.

That’s why I want to give back to others so much. I want to show them that whatever dream you might have, it is possible. It isn’t going to be easy, and you might break a few times, want to give up, or want to give in, but don’t. You were made for a reason and your voice matters. You can walk away and start something new; you can chase a dream. It’s okay to not want to be what others think you should be.

I will leave you with the words I was once told: a quote from the Wizard of Oz, that was sent to me when my world was much darker. This became my mantra: “You have always had the power within you.”

Hi, I’m Elaine Hamilton, and I’m an author.” I’m proud to say that now.

Don’t be afraid to step into the shoes of the person you always dreamed you could be. There’s no better time than now.

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